I have had a nagging sense of unfulfilled purpose in the background of my life for a really long time. We're talking decades. I love my job, running my own design business, and find it very fulfilling. But this unease was happening on a much deeper level. It was a constant leaden feeling in my gut, telling me I had more to give, something more meaningful to create.
Without understanding how or why, I’ve always had a knowing that making art and making a contribution were inextricably linked for me. But I had absolutely no idea what that meant, or how to make it happen.
It was driving me quietly bonkers!
So here’s a bit of backstory. My daughter is an artist too. At just eleven years old, she creates original characters with so much quirky personality, in such a decisive original style, I’m in awe. The creativity just pours out of her, and is a source of constant joy in her life.
Watching her draw has helped remind me of where my own relationship with creativity began. Joy. Effortless pure expression. Play. From my earliest years, expression from the deepest part of my soul seemed utterly natural: I drew, danced, wrote and acted my way through childhood. I was splendiferous... just like my daughter, Lily.
Somewhere along the line it all became a bit less splendiferous for me, a bit more serious – I placed more and more pressure on myself to be ‘good enough’, to create work that fulfilled my 'artistic potential’ (whatever that means).
The more I worried about how a painting would turn out, the more creatively paralysed I became. In the end I couldn't even bring myself to start a new piece, even for fun.
For years I was disconnected from my art. For a creative person, to lose that heart connection with some form of expression... well it’s bloody miserable.
It happens to so many of us in this competitive, perfectionistic world. Logic is rewarded and creativity is trivialised, so it's easy to become alienated from your inner truth.
But here’s the wonderful part: the sense of flow is always right there when you’re ready to step back into it. My journey back to my true self is a whole other story, but suffice to say the joy was right there, ready to flood my whole being, when I remembered how to be gentle with myself, and how to play.
So I have a reverence for all creative work, big and small, serious and frivolous. From playful kids to amateur dabblers (like me), to gifted professional artists. I have a deep admiration for anyone, of any age, who listens to their inner muse and dares to put something new into the world that wasn’t there yesterday. It’s a little piece of their soul to see. How breathtakingly brave and beautiful!
Art is about seeing, and it’s about being seen. It takes guts.
Fast-forward to when I’m describing my idea for Art of Kindness to 10 year old Lily. She’s so excited when I suggest she might like to contribute some of her work to the cause. She exclaims, ‘Oh it’s perfect for me! It’s like my whole life has been leading up to this moment all along. I just never knew it!’
Woah. Well exactly. How could I describe to her how poignant it is that, at the age of 50, I feel exactly the same way?
Because although I love to paint and draw and create, there’s always been a sense that a deeper purpose was thrumming impatiently below the surface. A dream of using my creativity to make a contribution to the world, and inspire others to do the same. It became somehow entwined for me: making art and making a difference. It was bigger than me.
I have no illusions about becoming a professional artist, but when I make art I feel driven to express the connection I feel with people in need. Lily calls these soulful portraits my ‘sad faces’.
Maybe it’s the pain of the world I feel, that keeps coming up to be expressed. And maybe I can also see the sadness and uncertainty I've felt at times along my own path in these paintings. It's a facet of my vulnerable inner world. Art for me is often a process of capturing what's inside, and bringing it out onto the canvas as an expression of shared humanity. That's why art is sacred and soulful to me.
I’ll be drawing happier faces soon, I’m sure.
I've heard the phrase, 'Your mess is your message," which means the thing in life which has caused you the most struggle can be the very thing you can some day help others overcome.
What if Art of Kindness can inspire other creative people whose confidence and joy in art has taken a hit by life? What if I can help to nudge them out of this self-critical relationship with their talent, and back into a sense of inner connection, trust and play? That would be fulfilling at the deepest level.
When the idea for Art of Kindness came into clear focus for me, I really did think exactly what Lily said: My whole life has been leading up to this idea.
In my professional life I’m a graphic designer with my own busy business. My client base has become specialised over the years around what lights me up and gives meaning to my worklife. My clients these days are almost exclusively in the not-for-profit, charity, activism, education and medical fields.
My personal story is characterised by a lifelong deep dive into personal growth, philosophy, psychology, and spiritual exploration. Through all the countless hours of reading and seeking for meaning, I’ve become exquisitely attuned to what matters most to me, the direction my intuition is guiding me, and my sense of purpose.
I’ve learned the power of kindness. I see bad scary stuff going on out there in the world, but I also see the antidote to all the fear and injustice. Simple kindness. A kind person giving some of what they have to help another. A bunch of kind people working together to create little miracles. Everywhere the stories of change and progress are gathering momentum. It all starts with a human connection, and with the willingness to reach out and give whatever it is we have to offer.
I see my daughter drawing at the kitchen bench and feel compelled to empower her to see the value in her creativity.
I’d love to reach children with the message that the world needs their art, their creativity, their love and their help. How they use their gifts really matters.
So I got to thinking, surely I can’t be the only one who feels this dual calling, to both create art and make a meaningful contribution? Maybe, I thought, I was perfectly poised to make a space where, as artists, we can connect, feel seen, contribute and share the buzz of doing something good in the world.
So Art of Kindness was born...
With every step I take along this path of bringing the vision of AoK into reality, I'm infused with a sense of joy and excitement. Finally that uneasy feeling in my gut is gone and I'm back in a state of flow... just like my childhood. I don't know where this journey will take me, but I just know in my heart it's the right way forward.
I invite you to help me make the Art of Kindness possible.
– AoK Creator, Megan Hibberd